Faculty Focus

Harold Christensen, Professor of Economics

This fall marks 26 years. That equates to a total of 52 semesters–––an outstanding tenure for Professor of Economics Harold Christensen. He has been at Centenary since the fall of 1980, when he joined eight other nationally recruited new faculty members that year.

Out of that class, Christensen is in it for the long haul, along with three of his colleagues, Professor of History Sam Shepherd and Professors of Biology Ed and Beth Leuck, who all share an equally impressive tenure at the College.

“Even after all of these years we constitute one of the largest groups of ‘survivors,’” Dr. Christensen says with a hint of jest.

Modest Beginnings

During his first semester of teaching, Christensen was formally initiated into Centenary life by actually living in the guest room of Sexton Hall.

“In those days we still locked the doors at something like 10 or 11 p.m. and had male students who were paid to be dorm-daddies. Even at the ripe old age of 32, they made me feel like a dorm-granddaddy!”

From the get-go, Christensen was impressed with the strong community at Centenary and immediately forged meaningful relationships with students and colleagues.

A tough choice came during his second semester at Centenary when Christensen received an attractive offer to return to Oklahoma as an associate professor of economics and associate dean of the Business School at Oklahoma City University. He admits having been tempted just a bit by the promotion, pay raise and chance to return to his home state.

However, in considering the offer, Christensen concluded that there was something too special about Centenary to leave it all behind. He recognized, even after a single semester, the unique value of his relationships with students, the faculty’s scholarly freedom and the general positive atmosphere at Centenary. It was then he decided to commit to being a lifelong Centenary professor.

Scholarly Pursuits

“At Centenary, most faculty have the freedom to teach, within reason, what they want and when they want.”

Christensen appreciates the flexibility in determining each semester’s schedule with the support of Frost School of Business deans past and present like Hugh Urbantke, Barrie Richardson, Don Wilcox and Chris Martin.

Christensen attributes his interesting research projects to the fact that Centenary encourages and stimulates academic curiosity, especially in collaboration with students.

Through Centenary’s special fund that allows faculty and students to do collaborative summer research, Christensen has worked with students Pepper Kaufman ’02 to build a large data set of daily gasoline prices and Bryan Scanlon ’03 to study early railroad development in the Ark-La-Tex.

This summer Christensen worked with student Matthew Frazier and Professor of Economics Dr. Betsy Rankin, researching the life-cycle decision to save.

“Collaborative research really sums up the Centenary experience—it’s the combination of an exciting discipline, good students and a nurturing environment,” Christensen says.

Top 5 Career Highlights

To summarize, Christensen cites these as the best memories of his teaching career:

  • Interactions with his students.
  • His broad repertoire of courses, which has given him a great appreciation for and understanding of his discipline.
  • Being selected in 1981 as a postdoctoral fellow in Applied Economics at the University of Chicago.
  • Doing a study guide in 1988 with Dr. David Hoaas to accompany one of the time’s bestselling books on the principles of economics.
  • Having an article published in the Encyclopedia of Keynesian Economics in 1995.

Centenary Runs in the Family

Not only does Christensen’s wife and valued colleague, Dr. Betsy Rankin, work at Centenary, but their children and children-in-law all graduated from the Maroon-and-White. The legacy includes daughter Annelise Christensen Clifton ’92, son Josh Christensen ’98, son-in-law Warren Clifton ’91 and daughter-in-law Christi Carlton Christensen ’96.

- by Kelsey Johnson, Associate Editor, Centenary Magazine, Fall edition, 2006